Charles Wesley and the Reluctant Sermon Reader (on Blue Monday)

I have always been impressed with John Meunier‘s determination to read and think through John Wesley’s sermons. He has on a number of occasions made me think I need to pull out my copy of John Wesley’s 44 hymns (for some reason we have less than the Americans do). To date, I have yet to get beyond holding the book in my hand. Having never been required to read them all, I have only read a handful for my Methodism class.

Though I cannot say I think about the sermons very much, I am very fascinated by John’s younger brother and his hymns. Before I came to England I thought I was well versed in Charles Wesley’s hymns. I knew ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’, ‘Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast’, ‘Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus’, and maybe ‘Love Divine’. This hardly touches the breadth of Wesley’s hymns and I didn’t realise it until I got here and realised that I sang very few growing up! I once chose a hymn I found that I quite liked the words and the tune sounded nice on CyberHymnal so I thought I would choose it for a service. Imagine my surprise when half the congregation sang without a hymnbook and the organ swelled triumphantly to the song. What was it? ‘And Can it Be’. I do not remember singing that song once before then! Even now I am amazed at the different Charles Wesley hymns that Richard Hall finds for his ‘Hymn of the Day’.

Wanting to discover the richness of Methodist theology, but still reluctant to sit through a Wesley sermon, I have been reflecting on Charles’s hymns more. This past Advent I read Paul Chilcote’s book Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Advent and Christmas with Charles Wesley and hope to use his Lent book starting in March. But I think I am most thankful for the Methodist Worship book which incorporated a lovely hymn in it’s morning prayer service. I had no idea where it came from until I finally looked up the hymn’s author (Charles Wesley, of course). ‘Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies’ became a prayer for me during my first move nearly 5 years ago when I was feeling spiritually and emotionally shaken by the move (amazing what comes out in a life transition – the Dementors get unleashed heavily).

Since today was Blue Monday, for those who are feeling it, I offer that last verse of Charles Wesley’s great hymn and recommend this for your prayer:

Visit then this soul of mine!
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief!
Fill me, Radiancy Divine;
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

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